On March 13, we celebrate National K-9 Veterans Day. While most may be unaware of the extensive history of military service dogs, they’ve served our nation for decades. This holiday was created to recognize the contributions of the hundreds of thousands of furry companions in American law enforcement and the military.
As you read about the origins of military working dogs, get into the details of:
The founding of K-9 Veterans Day
How and why the war dog program began
How service dogs have assisted troops during combat
Why service dogs remain beneficial for aging Veterans
How Did K-9 Veterans Day Begin?
National K-9 Veterans Day was created by Joseph White, a former military working dog trainer, to commemorate the official birthday of the US Army K-9 Corps. Since the founding of this holiday, Veterans, K-9 breeders, and handlers have honored working military dogs for their heroism and service.
The Beginning of the War Dog Program
On March 13, 1942, the United States Army started training for its new War Dog Program, which officially came to be known as the K-9 Corps division. While the U.S. already had an unofficial canine presence during World War I, military dogs weren’t formally recognized until this day during World War II.
Initially, the American Kennel Association and a group known as Dogs for Defense organized a campaign for dog owners nationwide to donate the most capable and healthy animals to the Quartermaster Corps Army department. Over 30 breeds were accepted for the program, but eventually, the list was narrowed down to seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Siberian Huskies, Belgian Sheepdogs, collies, Malamutes, and Eskimo dogs.
K-9 Corps members were trained in basic obedience for eight to 12 weeks. Afterward, these service dogs typically worked in one of four specialized programs that prepared them for work as either sentry, messenger, patrol, or mine-detection.
The Impact of War Dogs Throughout History
Since the founding of the K-9 Corps unit, military war dogs have gone on to make remarkable achievements in American history. Organizations like the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, for example, were heavily instrumental in their services with the U.S. Marines throughout World War II. Even afterwards, war dogs had significant roles in the Korean War, Vietnam, and various conflicts in the Middle East.
Notable Military Service Dogs
Over the years, many military service dogs have stood out for their remarkable service, like:
Sgt. Stubby – America’s “original war dog” who fought valiantly during World War I
Rin Tin Tin – An international superstar rescued from the battlefield during World War I that captured the hearts of the American audience through silent films
Chips – A German Shepherd who trained as a sentry dog and became the most decorated dog in World War II
Cairo – A Belgian Malinois Navy SEAL dog who helped take down Bin Laden
Sinbad – The Coast Guard sailor who served 11 years on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell, which sunk the German submarine U-606
How Service Dogs Have Impacted Our Troops
As previously mentioned, service dogs have been instrumental in lots of military initiatives, like scouting, search and rescue, and explosive detection. But the selfless deeds of these companions don’t stop at the battlefield.
For military Veterans who’ve battled with conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury, psychiatric service dogs have proven beneficial in many ways. Studies show that specially-trained dogs are great for:
Reducing stress and anxiety levels
Minimizing depressive symptoms
Easing the social reintegration process post-combat
Combating feelings of isolation
These psychological benefits are one of the reasons why initiatives like American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program were created. Because returning to civilian life can be full of challenges for a Veteran, service dogs are exceptionally trained under the oversight of health professionals, animal welfare specialists, Veteran experts, and other advocates to ensure that the Veteran can foster a healthy connection with their companion.
Finding exceptional care for your loved one doesn’t have to be complicated.
Elderly Veterans who need long-term care can also benefit from the assistance of service dogs. Everyone’s circumstances are unique, but many aging individuals are still dealing with the transition into civilian life decades later. Additionally, many service members have gone through many life stages and are coping with a permanent disability or experiencing the symptoms of chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.
On top of health issues, lots of Veterans struggle with isolation and a lack of social connection later in life. Many struggle with feelings of hopelessness and lack of independence, which can be tough to navigate mentally and emotionally. And for those who reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the feeling of a lack of control is all too common.
Thankfully, dogs and other pets can serve as relief for all elderly individuals. Aging Veterans who may not have the resources to care for a pet can benefit from service dogs who are trained to provide comfort and help them with daily living activities. On the other hand, elderly Veterans who can take care of a companion can benefit from both the social connection and feelings of responsibility from having a pet to take care of.
Get Access to Quality Home Care for You and Your Companion With AVCC
As you understand the history of military service dogs and how the relationship between service dogs and Veterans has always been intertwined, consider how you can connect Veterans in need with companionship services. American Veterans Care Connection is a leading expert in providing Veterans with all the benefits they’re entitled to, and companionship services are no different.
Whether you or a loved one needs home health care services where they can receive quality aid while living comfortably with a pet, or if you need to speak with someone about signing up for VA benefits, we’re here to help. We’ll handle the complicated process and lead you to the care you deserve.